HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – A new search warrant has emerged in the criminal investigation focused on how an $11-million dollar vaccine outreach contract was awarded by Harris County to Elevate Strategies.
The 19-page warrant shows Texas Rangers telling tech-giant Google information is needed involving Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and others in her office.
“The investigation is expanding to the extent that the Rangers are seeking and have obtained 14 files of Google documents,” said Brian Wice, KPRC 2 Legal Analyst.
The requested information from Google are specific records from “Google Docs” as an investigator says Hidalgo and her team built the project using that platform, according to the 19-page warrant. The investigator told Google they are requesting detailed “electronic customer data” held by the company “that constitutes evidence of the offense of tampering with governmental document and/or misuse of official information, or that a particular person committed tampering with governmental document and/or misuse of official information.”
Wice says the investigation is very much in the early stages.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that any of the additional names we see today are in harm’s way. It only means that they are part of county government,” he explained.
The warrant was signed March 10 and instructs Google that they have 15 days to comply after receiving it.
Judge Hidalgo stated her position after the investigation came to light.
“What I can say is this; I follow the law,” said Hidalgo during a nearly 20 minute news conference on March 22.
During the same news conference, Hidalgo admitted to KPRC 2 Investigates she and others developed the project.
“We all worked on it together. I don’t remember where the idea came from initially, it may have been someone hearing from some of the other jurisdictions doing something similar, but certainly we were all in conversations. What should it look like? How would we like to design it? And then the concept was built,” she explained.
The latest warrant references Hidalgo’s account, specifically along with several senior staffers and advisors. Those listed are Alex Triantaphyllis, her current Chief of Staff; Joe Madden, her former Chief of Staff; Senior Advisors Aaron Dunn and Wallis Nader, as well as her county legal counsel, Kathryn Kase.
The account for Communications Director Rafael Lemaitre also is provided.
Murray Newman, who represents Lemaitre, questioned the public release of the warrants, adding, “Doing a lot of hype and a lot of talking before, is basically just that, it’s hype and it’s talking.”
KPRC 2 Investigates did request an on-camera interview with one of Hidalgo’s attorneys in light of the new warrant emerging. However, the attorney declined our request.